I had a couple folks ask me how they can grow out their nails and keep them looking nice, so here’s some tried-and-true tips. I’m actually a reformed picker myself- not so much of a biter, but I will pick at any ragged edges, make the nail too short, and since I hate having one short nail, they all have to go.
Some people pick/bite due to boredom, stress, etc. and then it just becomes a habit. Here’s some tips on overcoming long enough to grow out your nails. Many people (myself included) stop messing with their nails once they look good!
1. For biters, some people have good luck using a bitter but non-toxic liquid that is painted on the nails. The extremely bitter taste will stop absentminded nibbling. It does seem to come off after repeated handwashing, though, so it needs to be reapplied regularly. This option is of no use to pickers, though.
2. No matter what your nail issue is, make sure your nails and cuticles are moisturized. Use a cuticle balm, oil..whatever you like, just make sure to apply it regularly. Keep it on your nightstand and apply a good amount before bed at least. This will help reduce hangnails and raggedy cuticles, which can reduce the urge to pick.
3. Carry a nail file in your purse. I use a glass file, but carry them in a case as they can break. Use a fine file rather than a gritty one. That way, if you notice any rough edges on the nail, you can take care of them right away. It seems a bit silly, but for me, a rough nail edge drives me crazy. Just whip out the file, take care of it, and you won’t feel the urge to “even it out” by picking.
4. Cover your natural nails until they grow out. It often works well since it can help to break the habit and stops all that absentminded damage. This was actually what I had the most luck with. I find I mess with them much less when they’re all grown out and even. They look too nice to abuse!
There are a few basic options to cover nails until they grow out:
Acrylic nails- Not recommended due to the damage most salons will do to your natural nails. If they’re using power tools to grind down the natural nails, it will damage and weaken them badly, defeating the purpose. It can take months to grow out the damage- but hey, it’s faster for the salon, so many places use power tools indiscriminately. Acrylic nails generally do some degree of damage to the natural nails (some layers of the natural nail has to be stripped for the acrylic to adhere), but some salons cause more damage than others. If you really want to get acrylics, try to find a salon that will hand-file the nails rather than use a dremel or sander.
Gel- A less damaging option. The natural nails do need to be filed down a bit to remove the top layer so the gel can adhere. It’s usually more expensive and time-consuming to add length to the nails with gel since it’s a more complicated process. It can also be lumpy and uneven if you don’t have a good nail technician. The gel feels like a couple thick coats of nail polish on the nails. It’s resilient but not pick-proof and generally lasts 2-3 weeks, after which point the gel needs to be filled in to cover the gap where the new nail has grown in.
Artificial press-on nails- These worked best for me! (If you’re a biter/picker with petite nails, head over to my Etsy shop and get a nice set of single color nails to use while you’re growing yours out! OK, end shameless plug.) These nails can be found in most drugstores in various designs and sizes, and can be an economical way to try and cover your natural nails so they can grow out a bit. No salon visit needed, and fairly easy to do. Follow the glue instructions carefully and make sure the artificial nails are quite short, because it’s hard to go from no nails to having claws. It’s surprisingly easy to poke an eye or scratch places that shouldn’t be scratched.
And, this may be impossible, but try to reduce stress/boredom in your life. It can lead to a lot of unconscious habits, like nail biting and hair pulling. If possible, try to bring a distraction with you (good book? fun game on your phone?) so you can take a moment of time-out when you’re getting stressed or bored. If at all possible, giving yourself a 5-minute respite when things get overwhelming is really useful. I find I can tackle hard situations much better if I just get a little break and put my mind elsewhere for even a little bit.
Good luck to everyone trying to kick the habits!